Chester is a town in Middlesex County, Connecticut, United States. The town is part of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Planning Region. The population was 3,749 at the 2020 census. The town center is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census-designated place (CDP). The name is a transfer from Chester, in England.
The Wangunks, a river tribe of Native Americans, occupied the land called Pattaconk prior to English settlement of the area in 1692. The town was formed from the northern quarter of Saybrook and incorporated in 1836.
In 1769, Jonathan Warner was granted permission to operate a ferry across the Connecticut River that became the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, the second-oldest continuously operating ferry service in Connecticut. Its location is currently a state historical landmark.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 16.8 square miles (44 km), of which, 16.0 square miles (41 km2) is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km) (4.75%) is water. The CDP has a total area of 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2) of which 1.46% is water.
At the 2000 census there were 3,743 people, 1,510 households, and 1,005 families living in the town. The population density was 233.5 inhabitants per square mile (90.2/km). There were 1,613 housing units at an average density of 100.6 per square mile (38.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.79% White, 0.85% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.83% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.24% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 1.71%.
Of the 1,510 households, 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.9% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 28.1% of households were one person, and 13.0% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.93.
The age distribution was 22.3% under the age of 18, 4.4% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 26.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% 65 or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males.
The median household income was $65,156 and the median family income was $79,941. Males had a median income of $45,515 versus $40,444 for females. The per capita income for the town was $32,191. None of the families and 1.3% of the population were living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and 2.6% of those over 64.
At the 2000 census, there were 1,546 people, 632 households, and 401 families living in the Chester Center CDP. The population density was 762.1 inhabitants per square mile (294.2 inhabitants/km). There were 669 housing units at an average density of 329.8 per square mile (127.3/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 96.31% White, 1.29% African American, 0.06% Native American, 1.36% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.29% of the population.
Of the 632 households, 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.8% were married couples living together, 6.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. 30.5% of households were one person, and 10.1% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.91.
The age distribution was 21.9% under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 31.8% from 25 to 44, 26.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.4% 65 or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.8 males.
The median household income was $64,236 and the median family income was $71,250. Males had a median income of $38,900 versus $46,354 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $32,087. None of the families and 0.5% of the population were living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and none of those over 64.
Chester, like the other two towns in the "tri-town area" (Essex and Deep River), is a member of Regional School District #4. John Winthrop Junior High School is on Warsaw Street in Deep River, and Valley Regional High School, is on Kelsey Hill in Deep River. They serve students in grades 7–8 and 9–12, respectively. Each town in the area also has their own elementary school, serving grades K–6.
The 1959 film It Happened to Jane, starring Doris Day and Jack Lemmon, was filmed in Chester. Portions of the 1971 horror film Let's Scare Jessica to Death were filmed in Chester, including the Chester–Hadlyme Ferry.
The Whelen Engineering Corporation, a major designer and distributor of public service warning equipment (warning lights, sirens, etc.) in North America, is headquartered in Chester.
The Chester Airport is a local facility with one paved runway. It is privately owned by Whelen Aviation.
The Estuary Transit District provides public transportation throughout Chester and the surrounding towns through its 9 Town Transit Service. Services include connections to the Old Saybrook Train Station, served by Amtrak and Shoreline East railroads.
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